Love, Death and Robots

Tagged: TV

US animated tv series (2019). Blur Studio for Netflix. Created by Tim Miller. Executive Producers Joshua Donen, David Fincher, Jennifer Miller and Tim Miller. Directors include Victor Maldonado and Alfredo Torres. Writers include Philip Gelatt (main adapter), Claudine Griggs, Peter F Hamilton, Ken Liu, Alberto Mielgo, Alistair Reynolds, John Scalzi and Michael Swanwick. Voice cast includes Elly Condron, John DiMaggio, Maurice LaMarche, Kevin Michael Richardson, Emma Thornett and Scott Whyte. Eighteen 6-17 minute episodes. Colour.

Recalling such Television sf anthology series as The Twilight Zone and The Outer Limits, Love, Death and Robots – whose origins lie in a planned revival of the Heavy Metal film franchise – mainly features adaptions of short stories, including three by Scalzi and two by Reynolds. The genre is largely sf, but some episodes centre on Supernatural Creatures, with many including strong horror elements (see Horror in SF). Episodes were made by studios from around the world, using different types of animation, though hyper-realistic CGI and 2D dominate.

This is an impressive and memorable series, employing an interesting variety of art styles. The standouts are Reynolds's art-focused "Zima Blue" (Summer 2005 Postscripts) by Passion Animation Studios, and Scalzi's humorous "Three Robots" (as "Three Robots Experience Objects Left Behind from the Era of Humans for the First Time" in Robots vs. Fairies, anth 2018, ed Dominik Parisien and Navah Wolfe) by Blow Studio. Also noteworthy are Hamilton's urban-gladiatorial "Sonnie's Edge" (September 1991 New Moon) by Blur Studio; Mielgo's strange and cyclic "The Witness" (original to this series) by Pinkman TV; Swanwick's microcosmic "Ice Age" (January 1984 Amazing) by Digic Pictures/Blur Studio/Atomic Fiction; Griggs's spacewalking crisis "Helping Hand" (June 2015 Lightspeed) by Axis Studios; Reynolds's lost Starship tale "Beyond the Aquila Rift" (in Constellations: The Best of New British SF, anth 2005, ed Peter Crowther) by Unit Image; and Liu's Steampunk "Good Hunting" (2012 Strange Horizons Fund Drive Bonus Issue) by Red Dog Culture House. Most of the remaining stories range from fairly good to adequate, about half being Military SF.

There are flaws: though promoted as an adult series, the viewer might sometimes feel they are experiencing a fourteen-year-old's notion of adult perks, with gore, titillation and swearing aplenty; meaning that – fine and dandy as the aforementioned are – opportunities to explore ideas in Art, science and society with any depth are not often embraced (exceptions here being "Zima Blue" and, with caveats, "Good Hunting"). In "Beyond the Aquila Rift" the inserted soft porn scene might be seen as merely a gratuitous interruption; but with "Good Hunting" the repeated objectification of Yan (as fox-girl, woman and Cyborg), apart from being uncomfortable in itself, undermines the story's themes of colonialism, abuse and culture. Additionally, some stories' use of aggressive banter as a substitute for characterization can be wearying.

This has been a landmark series for SF animation: it would be excellent news if further seasons were commissioned. Should this happen, it is to be hoped that the ratio of stories written by women will be higher than the first season's 11%. [SP]

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